As the summer holiday season draws to a close, many of us parents are getting ready for our kids to either start or resume back at school. It’s been fun to have them home for the summer, but resumption of their normal routine is probably welcome by most!
School is a great opportunity for kids to mingle with, learn from and enjoy the company of others their age. This is also the reason why immunizations are so important. Starting or returning to school puts a child in an environment whereby they can and will come into contact with different bacteria and viruses. For a healthy child, if their immune system is up to the task, they may get the occasional sniffles for a short period of time, but their bodies are usually able to fight off mild infections. However, there is no way to predict what can happen if an un-vaccinated child contracts a major communicable disease and is then exposed to a school environment.
It is well known that there are few other public health measures that have saved as many lives against infectious diseases globally as immunizations. Effective and safe immunizations are one of the most successful public health tools we have in modern medicine. The reason for this is simple – by vaccinating as many children and adults as possible against infectious diseases, then individuals and their communities can be protected against the spread of that disease.
The recent identification of two children with paralysis from polio in Northern Nigeria is a classic example of what happens when we stop vaccinating against communicable diseases in endemic regions before their eradication. Nigeria had been polio free for two years, a celebrated success story after previously containing about half of the world’s cases of polio. We were on the brink of polio eradication – just one year shy – before two new cases were reported last week, setting back millions of dollars in public health preventive efforts, and worse, endangering and disabling the lives of children.
Now, you may be thinking that you don’t live in Northern Nigeria. Or that your child has been vaccinated against polio. However, take the time to review your child’s vaccination records before they start or resume school so you can ensure that they are not at risk of contracting other communicable diseases. Vaccinations work on the principle of “herd immunity”, which means that the more people have been immunized, the more they form a difficult to penetrate “herd” around those who have not. It is our job as parents to strengthen that “herd” – so do your part today. Review your child or children’s shots records and speak to their doctor if you have any questions or concerns about their vaccination history. They will confirm if additional shots are needed, thereby helping keep your child (and mine) safe and healthy.
For questions or comments, do contact Dr Adeyi at [email protected].
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Working to keep you healthy,
Dr. Sade Adeyi MD MPH